Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Rifle Or The Rug

August 1890, the city of Peshawar, bastion of British rule on India's North-West Frontier...

The city is administered by Major General Basil Whistsend, ably advised by his Political Officer, Captain Alexander "Teetotaler" Crane.  The two do not always see eye-to-eye -- such as when Gnl. Whistsend went against Capt. Crane's advice and ordered the entire civilian population of 50,000 men, women & children expelled before dispatching the 1st Brigade of his Divisional Garrison to maneuver in response to Tribal unrest in the nearby Tirah and the Hazara Black Mountains...

However, following a brief "cooling off" period, Captain Crane was able to convince his commander to let women, children, beggars, and business owners back into the Walled City.

Beggars in particular were allowed back because most of them are on Captain Crane's payroll, serving as "eyes and ears" of the Raj.  It's true, much of the information they deliver is of little or no value, and some of it is completely false -- but from time to time the beggars pluck needles out of haystacks. 

Amongst the beggars allowed back in is one who goes by the monicker HARI HOODEEN...

And amongst the business owners allowed back in was a certain rug merchant named Ibrahim Dast, located in the bustling Qissa Khawani Bazaar...

Where the carpets are very colorful indeed...

Earlier today Hari Hoodeen passed on a tidbit of info he'd recently overheard at the aforementioned Carpet Shop.  This exchange was spoken between said proprietor Ibrahim Dast and a visitor to his shop who examined no carpets... did no haggling... and left without purchasing so much as a thread of wool.  Instead he inquired about...

"A caravan that recently left Kabul with two young panthers worth 50,000 Rupees and 25,000 Rupees."

To which Ibrahim Dast replied...

"I have heard from some Bashi that two young men are traveling in a caravan with some pestiferous Bunerwals, followers of the False Rule, look for the black men and you will find your prey."

In light of the unrest currently spreading across the Frontier, this report is enough to warrant further inquiry.  So Capt. Crane dispatches Capt. Gadsen of the 127th Baluchis with a Section of Riflemen to bring the Rug Merchant in question in for questioning... 

Ibrahim Dast is desposited in any empty room in
Peshawar High Fort (British HQ) and left to ruminate...

Then taken to see Capt. Crane...

Who offers him a choice...

CAPT. CRANE: "Ibrahim Dast, I am Crane Sahib, known to your people as
Tshaai Askar.*  You and I both know you recently participated in a
conversation plotting rebellious treason at your place of business.
I will come quickly to the point, as these matters are by nature
very time sensitive and I have no time to waste on pleasantries, 
be they of British or Pesharawi nature.  As you can see,
 I am flanked on one side by a rifle, and on the other by a rug.
It is time for you to make your move, cast your die,
pick your card.  After which myself, Johnny Goorka
and Jock the Scot will do the same in response.
One thing is certain either way, Ibrihim...
you will leave her draped in red."

(*"Tea Soldier" in Peshawar Pashto parlance)

And so one Webley Mk I 1887 Revolver, one Martini-Henry and one new-fangled magazine-fed Lee-Metford Rifle made their influence known, albeit without a trigger being pulled, and following some further conversation, Ibrahim Dast made his way back to his shop in the Qissa Khawani Bazaar with his life intact and enriched by one beautifully plush Turcoman-made Persian Rug...

Shortly thereafter, Capt. Crane calls on
Major General Whitsend...

CAPT. CRANE: "Sorry to interrupt, General, but I have some news."

M.GNL. WHITSEND: "Come in, Alex.  This is Captain Elliot Hardigan,
Commander of the Royal Horse Artillery Battery that just arrived from Simla.
Captain Hardigan, this is Captain Crane, my Political Officer --
everyone calls him Teetotaler, for reasons you can see."

CAPT. CRANE: "Pleased to meet you, Hardigan."

CAPT. HARDIGAN: "Same here, Tito."

CAPT. CRANE: "General, I'm afraid we may need
Hardigan's galloping guns sooner than later..." 

CAPT.  CRANE (Cont'd): "I have just learned that as we speak, 
somewhere out there a pair of rabble-rousers going by the
nom de guerres 'Mule-Head' and 'Horse-Tail' are crisscrossing 
the Frontier on a mission to forge an alliance between
the Afridis and Waziris for purposes of rebellious uprising."

M.GNL. WHITSEND: "Are you deftly certain of all this, Teetotaler?"

CAPT. CRANE: "Beyond any shadow of a doubt.  As anyone in the
Political Service will tell you: the 'Rifle or the Rug' ploy never lies."

NOTE: All decision-points were resolved in accordance with
as set forth in The 20th Anniversary Edition (1979-1999)
of Larry V. Brom's Wargaming Classic
Specifically, Section E on "Torturing Prisoners"...

Ibrahim Dast could just as well have fled the coop
as the 127th Beluchis approached,
or barricaded himself inside his shop
and fought to the death, but the
DIE ROLL chose otherwise.

The same applied for his questioning:
he could have said nothing or
 tried to lie -- but again, the DIE ROLL 
said he "answers question."

Less dramatic perhaps, but on occasion
such is fate!


  1. Nice rugs and sensible tea drinking chap!
    Best Iain

    1. "Teetotaler" Crane thanks you for the kind word, Iain! Also glad you dug the rugs -- I copy & pasted them off the web into a Word Doc, resized them to fit my 28mm figs, which allowed them to all fit on one standard size page, printed & cut them all out with scissors. Simple but effective!

  2. Another excellent post my friend. The visuals are grand and the story intriguing!